Just as Microsoft became entrenched with Windows XP, so too
did Apple’s popular Mac OS X version 10.4 develop a shelf life. Released in
April 2005, Mac OS X version 10.4 (known as Tiger) introduced the Spotlight
integrated desktop search feature, a new Dashboard that popularized widget use,
an updated Safari Web browser, and more. However, Mac OS X version 10.5
experienced delays in its announced release.

Featuring more than 300 updates and improvements, the new “Leopard”
release packs several significant enhancements. In addition to including a new
Time Machine automated backup utility, the updated operating system boasts
Spotlight search capability across multiple systems, the Front Row and Photo
Booth applications introduced with Tiger on Intel-powered systems, virtual
desktop “Spaces” that enable users to maintain multiple desktop with
specific applications running simultaneously, the addition of RSS, stationery
and other new features to Mail, and much more. Here’s a deeper look at some of
the many new features and enhancements Apple is putting into Leopard.

Boot Camp

Apple’s dual-boot utility, which enables running Windows
installations on the same systems hosting Mac OS X, debuted as optional
downloads when Intel-powered Macs arrived. The application will now ship with
OS X by default.

Desktop enhancements

The new Apple desktop is designed to “showcase”
user’s photos and graphics as desktop backgrounds. A newly redesigned Dock
features greater transparency, so as to not distract from user’s desktop
images, which enjoy a cleaner desktop.

Finder tweaks

Mac’s Finder, equivalent to Windows Explorer or My Computer,
is treated to a new iTunes-like interface designed to
simplify data access. Whereas the Cover Flow view in iTunes
displays the cover image of an album (with the album’s musical contents
beneath), the new Finder will present preview views of files within the same
space that iTunes displays cover images. As a result,
users can now flip through file preview images when seeking specific documents,
spreadsheets, presentations, and other files. Figure A shows what the
new Finder looks like in Leopard.

Figure A

Leopard introduces a
refined Finder view (shown in the large active window), new Stacks (the
collection of icons emanating from the Dock), an enhanced Desktop, a more
translucent, less obtrusive Dock, and other changes.

Front Row

Apple’s Front Row, which debuted with Intel-powered Macs in
2006, becomes standard fare with the Leopard release. The Front Row feature
enables remotely navigating common options, including accessing music, movies,
photos, and more.

iCal

iCal, the Mac’s default calendar
tool, receives several updates with Leopard’s release. Boasting a new interface
that focuses on a clean and uncluttered look just like the new Mac desktop, a
new iTunes-like sidebar assists Mac users in navigating
calendar items. Sharing files with attendees is as simple as
dragging-and-dropping files into respective events. When e-mail invitations are
forwarded to attendees, any added files are included as attachments. Keep in
mind that this functionality is similar to that found in Microsoft Office,
whereas iCal is the default calendar tool included with Mac OS X and doesn’t
require an additional license.

Also new in iCal is support for group calendaring, in which
meetings can be scheduled for multiple users, resources (such as meeting rooms)
and even equipment (such as LCD projectors) can be booked directly from within
iCal. Based on the CalDAV standard, an iCal Server is
required to power the group calendaring functionality. With an iCal Server in
place, however, users can also browse other staff’s schedules to review
available free time necessary for scheduling new meetings.

iChat improvements

Users that rely upon iChat to
power instant messaging sessions will find Photo Booth integration within Mac
OS X version 10.5. Users can apply Photo Booth effects to chat sessions, or
they can present entire Keynote presentations within the instant messaging
application. iChat sessions
can also be recorded (including capturing both audio and video) and saved for
later review.

Mail tweaks

Apple’s standard Mail application receives upgrades as well.
In Mac OS X 10.5, the default e-mail client supports numerous stationery
templates. The mail client also adds support for virtual sticky notes (which
can be accessed from any Internet-connected Mac or PC).

In the past, Apple’s Mail application provided e-mail
functionality. With the new Leopard release, however, To-Do functionality is
added. Users can simply highlight wording within e-mail messages describing
tasks they need to perform (such as Prepare quarterly report), right-click the
highlighted text, and create a To-Do item. Since the To-Dos are stored within
e-mail, users can access those tasks from any Internet-connect Mac or PC as
well.

Mail also benefits from RSS support. By subscribing to RSS
feeds within Mail, Leopard users will know whenever a new article, blog post or
other entry is published. Further, using Mail, users can create Smart Mailboxes
to better help organize RSS feeds. And since Mail shares RSS feed coordination
responsibilities with Apple’s built-in Safari Web browser, users are assured
reading lists will remain synchronized.

Quick Look

Apple’s new Quick Look feature enables viewing a file’s
contents before opening the file. Similar to the Flip 3D feature in Windows
Vista that permits users to view the contents of multiple open Windows, Quick
Look permits Mac users to view the contents of files (including documents,
spreadsheets, presentations, PDFs, and even videos)
without having to open each file. Thus, these short “sneak peek”
glimpses make it much easier for users to find specific files they seek more
quickly on a Mac hard disk.

Parental Controls

Typically a consumer feature, Leopard provides expanded
parental controls for Mac users. New content filters help Leopard protect
children from inappropriate Web content, while bedtime and usage limits can be
easily configured to police the amount of time children spend on the computer.
Further, Leopard-powered systems can now log the Web sites children visit, the
contents of chat sessions, and even the applications run.

Photo Booth

Largely a consumer-focused feature, Apple’s Photo Booth adds
stock photography to help dress up Photo Booth sessions. In addition to
creating user photos, which might be linked as an iChat
buddy image, Photo Booth also supports creating and sharing video snippets.
While Photo Booth’s audio and video quality isn’t professional grade, the
feature provides users with a simple method of quickly and easily creating basic
audio and video files.

Safari 3.0

Apple’s Web browser, Safari, receives an upgrade in Leopard:
Safari 3.0 is loaded by default within the next Mac OS X release. Providing
improved performance, additional security controls (such as a private browsing
feature that disables caching of personal data, among other information),
inline PDF support, and more, the browser provides Mac users with a more
reliable and consistent Web browsing experience.

Stacks

Apple’s new Stacks feature is among new Desktop enhancements
designed to add to the Mac’s stunning visual appearance. As the Desktop often
serves as the location in which documents, spreadsheets, programs, and other
files are stored, it quickly becomes cluttered. Apple’s designers worked to
help consolidate such files and clean the Mac’s desktop appearance in the
process.

The result is Stacks, which enables users to collect similar
objects in “stacks,” or folders that live on the Mac’s Dock. When a
new item arrives (such as an e-mail or document) within a Stack, the Mac
signals the user the file is present. To view the item, users need only click
the relevant stack icon and a graceful animated arc displays the contents of
that stack.

Spaces

Recognizing that users manage different kinds of data, from
office-related work to editing personal e-mail messages, Apple designers have
included support for separate desktops on Mac OS X version 10.5. By dragging
active windows into separate Spaces, Mac users can segregate applications and
programs by topic.

For example, an employee working from home might wish to
create a work-related Space in which their VPN connection is active and
work-related applications are up and running. A second Space might be dedicated
to sending personal e-mail and surfing the Web, while yet a third Space could
be devoted to music or entertainment-related activities (such as viewing a DVD
movie).

Navigating between Spaces is simple. Leopard places
placeholder icons on the Dock for each Space.

Spotlight enhancement

In addition to refining Spotlight performance and the
interactive menu users leverage to perform desktop searches, Apple developers
tweaked Spotlight to support searching multiple systems in Mac OS X version
10.5. Using a new sidebar, results will be categorized in Leopard.

Time Machine

Time Machine is among one of the most important upgrades
Leopard features. The new backup application simplifies data protection.
Whenever a compatible backup device is found (such as a simple external USB
drive), by stating one wishes to use Time Machine, Mac OS X version 10.5
automatically configures backup operations.

Unlike Windows, which requires users to specify which files,
folders, and drives should be backed up, when the backups should occur, what
type of back operation should be run (Normal vs. Differential vs. Incremental),
Leopard simply backs everything up. Everything from programs and applications
to accounts, system preferences, and other data is backed up automatically.

Further, Time Machine provides a feature similar toWindows Restore, enabling users to return to specific
system configurations as they existed on a specific date. However, unlike
Windows, Leopard enables returning an entire system to a specific date,
recovering a copy of a single file from a specific date or restoring a folder
or folders to a specific date. Using Time Machine, Mac users can also encrypt
backups and specify storage limit settings to help manage the amount of disk
space dedicated to backups.

Universal Access improvements

Leopard includes bolstered accessibility features, too.
Besides adding a new voice that speaks more naturally at a faster pace, support
has been added for Braille displays and note-taking devices. Further, voice-over
commands can now be associated with numeric keypad keys using NumPad Commander.

Apple’s VoiceOver feature now
accentuates “hot spots” by monitoring for active windows and
notifying users (via sound clues) whenever notifications or alerts are
displayed on screen. VoiceOver also assists visually
impaired users in navigating applications and onscreen menus.

Other accessibility improvements include expanded
closed-captioning support within QuickTime, more applications (including iChat) that “speak” on screen text and VoiceOver support for .Mac online Internet and e-mail
accounts.